SCIENCE discovered the default mode network (DMN) using fMRI studies where people were asked to lay in the scanner with no specific thinking assignment. DMN is activated when you stop thinking about something specific and just veg out. This network is doing anything but “resting” even though it operates largely under the conscious radar. It connects concepts or makes creative leaps. In the DMN, your brain does some of its best, wisest, and most creative work – it is the best place to park a problem. When your brain isn’t focused on a task, it switches to default mode: Washing your hair, taking a shower, ironing your clothes, going for a long walk those are done almost instinctively because you’ve done it so many times before. Your brain doesn’t focus on it. It’s what we call autopilot. But there are parts of our brain that are even more active when we’re on “autopilot”.
While you’re relaxed, going through the motions, and your mind wanders, the default mode network begins to do its thing, becoming the most active area of your brain. It’s focused inward and it will retrieve memories, link ideas so that you become more creative.
Archimedes had a brilliant idea in his bath and shouted ‘Eureka’ at his discovery. Albert Einstein came up with his theory of relativity while imagining himself riding a sunbeam to the edge of the universe. Charles Darwin took long walks around London to boost creative thought.
It seems that consciously paying attention to a problem isn’t the best way to solve it – daydreaming and letting mind figure it out is. When you finally do solve the problems, the solution seems to jump out from nowhere. Suddenly you see what you didn’t see before. If you have all the puzzle pieces ready, take a break and relax. Let your problem-solving subconscious mind to work for you.